Presentation to SD67 - Enhanced Partnership between the Community and the School - updated.
Updated: Sep 2
2022 09 01 Update
In light of the press lease released in June 2022, I followed up with the SD67 Superintendent and asked:
Many citizens supported Area F’s proposal to purchase the north field and lot at WB. As you know, in May 2021, the RDOS Chair, Community Services Manager, Chairs from Area F's Advisory Planning Commission, Parks Commission, Age Friendly Commission, WBE PAC and I presented the 'West Bench Elementary Parkland and Community Hub Project' idea to the SD67 Business Committee. The RD has received ongoing communication from SD67 explaining why further discussion has been delayed, but there has been no official response to Area F's offer.
The June 22 press release from SD67 stated that public consultation on the potential disposal of the property would be in the coming months. Citizens involved in the Area “F” proposal have asked what that means for the community's offer. Has the SD board declined Area F's Parkland and Community Hub proposal? If so, could you please confirm? If public consultation is a process requirement, and the board is still interested in Area F's proposal, please share the process. Right now, I am not sure how to answer the inquires.
Here is the response from SuperIntendent Manual:
Thank you for your email. In terms of process of disposal or alternate use of school district land, the Ministry of Education has guidelines that school districts must follow regarding the disposal of land, and our Board discusses all matters regarding property in closed meetings. Once the Board has made a decision on a property, it is made public.
In the case of the West Bench land, the Board appreciates the interest and proposal from the RDOS. At this time, the Board has initiated the public engagement process as required by the School Act when considering disposal or sale of land. According to Ministry policy, "Boards of education must engage in broad consultation and in enhanced planning regarding underutilized school buildings and other property owned by boards prior to property disposition."
The Board has not made any decisions on the disposal or sale of the land, nor has it approached the Minister to approve any such sale. The RDOS proposal is certainly one that the Board will look at closely as it moves forward in this process.
As the Board continues to deliberate, and fulsome public engagement moves forward as required by the Act, the Board will provide direction to staff regarding next steps in communication with any interested parties. In terms of timelines, with elections occurring this fall, the work to continue this process and to make any decisions regarding disposal of property will ultimately come to the new Board.
The SD has their process to follow. I am sure Area "F" will be invited to participate in the dialogue once the new school year has started and the new SD 67 board is elected.
Update - July 12, 2021. Letter from Chair Palanio thanking us for the presentation and letting us know that SD67 is waiting for recommendations from their Long Range Facilities Plan. The SD67 Board expects the recommendations to come this autumn, 2021.
In 2019, I asked RDOS staff to explore an enhanced partnership between the community/RDOS and the school/SD67. As you likely know, the community/RDOS has pursued a joint-use or shared-use agreement with SD67 for several years with limited success. I was curious if the school district would be more interested in a partnership if the community were willing to invest in the school building and campus.
There are two parts to the potential partnership:
Invest in the facility (school), so the community can access surplus or shared-use space outside of school hours.
Invest in improving the north field and gravel lot of West Bench Elementary.
The conversation between the School District and the Regional District was going very well throughout 2019. However, at the end of 2019, SD67 saw different priorities emerge and new senior staff come on board. And then, of course, March 2020 and COVID put a pause to everything (including this partnership discussion).
I went before the SD67 board this week to reaffirm the community interest in an enhanced partnership with the school and request that the discussion with the RDOS around the partnership with West Bench Elementary continues as a priority.
The presentation seemed very well received by the SD67 board.
Below is the presentation and my notes.
Please note that the concept drawing of the north field and gravel lot is just that - a concept, an idea of what could be.
The community would drive this project (if we get that far) and a balance between community desire, enhanced student experience and a reasonable budget is the goal.
If SD67 is interested in the partnership, significant community engagement will occur and decisions will be made together. In the meantime, here are the slides and my notes if you are interested. Happy to answer any questions you may have.
Tuesday, May 11 Business of the Whole Committee/SD67 Presentation
Thank you, Chair van Raes, Trustees and staff, for allowing us the time to present to you all today.
I would like to recognize the Penticton Indian Band and gratefully acknowledge that we work and live within the traditional, unceded territory of the syilx people and the project we are discussing today is also within the traditional, unceded territory of the syilx people in the Okanagan Nation
My name is Riley Gettens, and I am the Director for Area "F" of the RDOS.
In 2019, SD67 and the RDOS re-engaged in conversation around a shared-use agreement between the community and West Bench Elementary school. A vision for a more enhanced partnership between the school and the community began to take shape through that conversation.
By the end of 2019, staff from both School District and the RDOS had agreed to gather some preliminary information to take back to their respective boards for further discussion.
Some new priorities arose around the same time, and this project was put on a temporary hiatus.
And then, of course, by March 2020 – COVID took over and everything was paused.
We are here today to reaffirm that the community of Greater West Bench is still very interested in exploring an enhanced partnership with West Bench Elementary.
With us this afternoon representing the community and their respective Area F commissions are committees are Chairs:
Kristi Tatebe, West Bench Elementary Parent Advisory Committee
Elmie Saaltink, Greater West Bench Age-Friendly Committee
Ben Accuri, Area F Parks Commission
Brad Hillis, Area F Advisory Planning Commission and
Alternate Area "F" director Heather Allen.
I would also like to thank RDOS Chair Karla Kozakevich and RDOS Community Services Manager Mark Woods for attending this afternoon.
Through this presentation, we would also like to
Update the committee on recent regional and community studies
Share some of the community's ideas for the partnership.
And respectfully request that the conversation between staff at SD67 and the regional district continue as a priority so we can take the idea to the citizens of Greater West Bench and our neighbours the Penticton Indian Band and the City of Penticton
Over the past 18 months, the RDOS has conducted several studies providing helpful information on how to best address community gaps and enhance community assets.
The most significant gap identified for Greater West Bench is the lack of a multi-use, year-round community space.
Those surveyed for the Age-Friendly study repeatedly highlighted West Bench Elementary as a place in which to invest for more community connection.
We know from the housing study that the population of Greater West Bench is projected to grow, and Area F's average median age is lower than the RDOS as a whole. We see more and more families moving into the area. From the Child Care Action Plan, we know we do not have enough in-community child care spaces and there is an appetite for more early education opportunities.
Local governments can often best address a community gap by investing in existing public infrastructure.
Could the community partner with and invest in the school to safely access any surplus space or shared space outside of school hours?
Could the community help address any temporary school capacity concerns while maintaining the current classroom configuration to be available as enrolment increases or school needs evolve?
The citizens are looking for an agreement that would allow for more recreation and services to be delivered to the broader community without a negative financial impact on the district or student programs.
A second and very exciting part of this potential partnership could see the north field and gravel lot of West Bench Elementary enhanced by Greater West Bench for student and community use.
We have heard excellent ideas including:
a safer student drop off and pick up zone
off-street parking for parents and visitors
paved walking path for those learning to walk, ride or with mobility issues
outdoor exercise stations
community and learning gardens
performance or outdoor classroom areas
updated sports courts.
It is also important to note that the north field was the most preferred bus stop location for the West Bench Transit system coming in January 2022.
A great example of a possible shared project is the shade structure that WBE PAC is currently fundraising for.
There is a beautiful example on the slide under number four. If there was a partnership in place, the school and community could work together on a project like this because I guarantee more than one community group would love to access a similar structure outside of school hours.
The RD has several agreements already in place. A great example is the partnership between the community of Naramata and Naramata Elementary School.
Renovations intended for public use are paid for by the RDOS (the community), and it has been an excellent relationship that has enhanced student and community experienced since 1977.
A similar partnership in Greater West Bench could help our PAC see their shade structure built because the benefit would serve both the students and the community.
A significant advantage to partnership is the additional grants available for to leverage.
Some of those opportunities are listed here.
We also have the capacity within the RD administration services to take on the responsibility around bookings, risk management and client management, etc. Our goal is to not add any unnecessary burden or cost to the school or district.
School District 67's core values are closely aligned with the values of the community of Greater West Bench.
Quality education is a shared responsibility. There is a strong willingness from the community to support the school district's mission and vision because we share your values and our community loves that school.
West Bench Elementary has always been an essential place for relationship-building amongst students, parents and families.
We see the partnership between the school and the community as a way to broaden the opportunity for more connection between neighbours of all ages.
We came before you today to reaffirm that the community of Greater West Bench (RDOS) is still very interested in an enhanced partnership with West Bench Elementary (SD67)
The Area "F" Committee and Commission Chairs in attendance are a good representation of the strong support for this plan. We are keen to take it to the broader community and look forward to building solutions and relationships with the school district and our neighbours, the Penticton Indian Band and the City of Penticton.
There are more details that staff need to work out before we can have that broader conversation, which is why we also would like to respectfully request that the dialogue between the team from SD67 and the RDOS remains an ongoing priority.
With that, thank you, Chair, trustees and staff for the opportunity to come before you today. It is very much appreciated. At the Chair's discretion, I am happy to take any questions.